At Brunswick Moviebowl with Séan Coyle
Dir. Otto Bathurst
Starring – Taron Egerton, Jamie Dornan, Jamie Foxx, Eve Hewson, Ben Mendelsohn
Even though Robin Hood is the one of the most well-known folk tales of all, the beloved character’s transition to the screen has always varied in quality. From the classic 1930’s swashbuckling Errol Flynn efforts to 1991’s Kevin Costner led version to, as recent as 2010’s, Ridley Scott’s imagining with Russel Crowe, which ended up being a sort of Diet Gladiator. Even though our most recent effort claims, in voiceover, at the start to be a different twist on the classic story it struggles to differentiate itself in anyway, a hard undertaking considering the story is so well tread.
In this version Robin of Loxley (Egerton) a war hardened Crusader and his Moorish commander John (Jamie Foxx) mount an audacious revolt against the corrupt Sherriff of Nottingham (Mendelsohn), trying to free the commoners from his tyrannical control, as you already know. The film succeeds in its opening stages of taking us out of the comfort zone of the usual story and putting us into the violent arena of the Crusades. This Middle Eastern set portion of the film has some good gritty action and a great pace, and probably owes a lot stylistically to the Prince of Persia series of videogames. From here our hero is sent home, due to treason, but upon his return finds out that his love Marian (Hewson) has been taken by another man (Dornan) and that Nottingham is being destroyed by villainy.
The Robin Hood tale is so timeless as it always feels prescient, due to its focus on the beat down poor overcoming the all-powerful rich, the classic story of the underdog succeeding despite all that’s thrown at them. In times of austerity and class division the film could act as a good tonic, and it does try to point the finger, but it comes across as a bit hammy. Despite other negative reviews, I find no problem with the film being overly theatrical, this is Robin Hood after all. The dialogue may be clunky, some CGI wanting and it may not offer anything we haven’t seen before but it does what it has to well enough, big set pieces and action.
Egerton is good, but for me never really feels like the iconic character, a bit too fresh faced and he never seems that he is of his time, although this is a complaint for all the characters. Jamie Foxx makes for good support, although a minor squabble, is that his accent is very wonky and seems to have been forgotten about completely by the films end. All underdog stories require a good villain to make our hero’s victory more satisfying, and this film has one. Mendelsohn is excellent, the new go to actor for bad guys, really shines here, and despite some scenery chewing, his portrayal of the Sherriff adds a new darker layer to the character.
It may be flawed, over the top and it doesn’t give us new insight into our titular character, but with a very good villain, and as an exercise in pacing and action, Robin Hood is better than a lot of others in its genre. It makes for a fun, if quite dumb, watch. Not really taxing at all.